3 underrated Kansas City Chiefs players due for larger impacts in 2024

Most of the starting spots are established on the Chiefs roster. But at a few select positions, Kansas City's coaches are looking for names to rise up and seize the opportunity.
Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

There are candidates from each NFL team who could take the next step and deliver a greater impact. Including the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, there are names worth watching who could break out. A breakout may involve taking on a larger role, producing at a higher level, or earning fresh opportunities within the scheme.

Most of the starting spots are established on the Chiefs roster. But at a few select positions, Kansas City's coaches are looking for names to rise up and seize the opportunity. Which defensive backs may be to step up with the departure of L'Jarius Sneed? How does the pass rush divvy up chances to rush the passer? Finally, will the finish of one player's performance from last season carry over to the 2024 campaign?

Here are three underrated Chiefs players who are primed to make a larger impact this upcoming season. Snap counts and past performances were taken into account to determine this list. Without further ado, let's begin with a linebacker who had a solid playoff run last year.

Leo Chenal

Linebacker Leo Chenal is one of a handful of players to have won the Super Bowl in both of his first two NFL campaigns. In 2023, he saw his snap counts rise on both defense and special teams. According to Pro Football Reference, Chenal played 41 percent of the defensive snaps and 72 percent of the special teams snaps last year. That was an increase from 23 percent and 61 percent, respectively, compared to his rookie season in 2022.

The beauty of Chenal's skill set in this defense is the versatility that he can offer. Chenal has been used on blitzes, deployed in coverage, and occasionally asked to maintain outside contain against the run. Chenal had eight tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits last year. The ability to make an impact behind the line of scrimmage, against both the run and the pass, is critical for the Chiefs' defense.

In last year's playoffs, Chenal made some plays in space. In my mind, it also appeared that his technique in pass coverage improved as the season got deeper last year. That resulted in simple passes being thrown against him. On the flip side, Chenal also forced a fumble in the Super Bowl, giving Kansas City an early jolt.

With his ability to affect opponents in a variety of ways, Chenal could continue to make a larger impact in his third season in 2024. You already saw his snap count rise last year. With further development and his technique becoming more sound, Chenal has a chance to truly become a thorn in the side of opposing offenses.

Chamarri Conner

Another player with versatility, Chamarri Conner lined up all over the defensive backfield coming out of Virginia Tech. That made him a tremendous fit for someone like Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. With a history at both safety and cornerback spots, Conner could arguably be picked to have the greatest impact at the defensive back void left by Sneed being traded.

Everyone knows how Trent McDuffie has become a star defender on this defense. But opposite of him, Conner is the one who some are raving about heading into 2024. That includes McDuffie, himself, as the cornerback discussed Conner's results at this offseason's OTAs, via Nate Taylor of The Athletic.

"I give big props to Chamarri," McDuffie stated. "They've got him playing nickel, (third) safety, dime and both safeties. I'm like, 'Yo, you got it... like, this is crazy.' He's one of those dudes who's quiet but works really hard. He asks the right questions, and he's very detailed."

As someone who may play different spots in the secondary this year, Conner will likely have to rely on instincts and communication above all else. We saw some of his quick instincts in last year's Divisional Round playoff win over the Buffalo Bills. For a handful of snaps, it seemed like Conner was in the perfect position and made a play on the ball or the opponent against Buffalo. Perhaps that slight glimpse will lead to a greater impact as an underrated piece in 2024.

Felix Anudike-Uzomah

Felix Anudike-Uzomah did not get a ton of chances as a rookie last year. Most of his opportunities actually occurred in the early portion of the regular season. With Kansas City missing names like Charles Omenihu and Chris Jones (briefly) to begin the year, Anudike-Uzomah was thrown into the fire. After some necessary learning and development, the Chiefs are hoping that Felix can take that next step and make a greater impact.

Anudike-Uzomah came out of Kansas State as a player who was not as dense as some of the other defensive linemen Kansas City has drafted recently. According to Pro Football Reference, he is listed at 255 pounds. In my opinion, he offered some bend and twitch as a pass rusher when entering the Chiefs' pass rush.

Kansas City re-signed Mike Danna this offseason. And with George Karlaftis having a solid two years so far, Anudike-Uzomah will likely be a rotational piece to start his second season. The recovery timeline for Omenihu (torn ACL) is still uncertain. Along with some other pieces, Anudike-Uzomah will likely be looking to carve out that number three role among KC defensive ends.

If he can build off of what he learned in what was somewhat of a redshirt year, Anudike-Uzomah can possibly make a larger impact for this Chiefs defense.